A Play of Props
A Play of Props
Chapter 9 argues that empty speech typically ranges from spoken discourse to mechanical noise, even and especially as it approaches full speech. In service to this argument, the chapter shows how the articulate yet nonsensical discussion of Irma’s condition in the first part of Freud’s iconic 1895 dream culminates in the recursive mechanical clamor of a puzzling expression in his dream’s second part: “propyl, propyls... propionic acid.” In the alliterative “prop... prop... prop” of this strange utterance, the chapter discovers the stuttering, repetitive structure of a linguistic shift from empty speech to its full counterpart—a shift which Freud seems to have made (or at least initiated) in his subsequent interpretations of the dream.Atop this final account of Freud’s dream, and with reference the stunning biographical context in which this dream occurred, Chapter 9 concludes that when empty speech begins to stammer, stumble, and seize up, effectively bringing ordinary language use to the brink of unintelligibility, it can no longer be understood as “empty," much less "ordinary." For it is precisely here, on the verge of communication breakdown, that the extraordinary practice of full speech begins.
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